May 21, 2024
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May these words of Torah serve as a merit le’iluy nishmat Menachem Mendel Ben Harav Yoel David Balk, a”h.

 

This week we learned Bava Metzia 32 and 33. These are some highlights.

 

Bava Metzia 32: Does a neglected son have an obligation to say Kaddish for his father?

A man separated from his wife and did not pay her child support. The wife demanded that the father sign a pledge stating that due to his neglect he was renouncing any rights of a father that he had toward his children. The father signed. He had nothing to do with his children. He then died. The son asked Rav Zilberstein, “Do I need to mourn for my father? Do I need to sit shiva? Observe 30 days of no haircuts? Do I have to say Kaddish for 11 months?”

Rav Zilberstein suggested that a discussion among the commentators to our Gemara would shed light on this question.

Our Gemara taught that if a father instructed his son not to return a lost object, the son may not listen. The source for this ruling is the verse that taught about honoring parents together with the mitzvah to observe Shabbos. Shabbos was linked to the honor of parents to teach that one need not listen to a parent who instructs his child to violate Shabbos or any other mitzvah. The Gemara asked, why do we need a special verse to teach us that we need not listen to our parents if they instruct us to sin? Honoring parents is merely a positive command. Returning a lost object is a positive command and a prohibition. It is obvious that a positive command cannot overrule a positive and negative obligation. The Gemara answered that since honoring parents is compared to honoring the Almighty, we would have thought that this positive command overrides even a positive and negative obligation. Hence, the need for the verse that honoring parents never overrides any Torah obligation.

Shitah Mekubetzet is bothered by the Gemara’s dialogue. Why would we think that honoring parents is a positive command that can override a single prohibition? If a father waives his honor, he is not entitled to honor. Any mitzvah that can be suspended based on the wishes of a person is not a full mitzvah obligation with the ability to override a prohibition. The Gemara in Ketubot (40a) discusses the mitzvah of the person who forced himself on a young lady to marry her. The mitzvah “lo tihyeh l’isha” (and she shall be his wife) would not overrule any prohibitions for it is not an absolute obligation. If the victim decided not to marry the coercer, there would be no mitzvah for them to marry. Since it is a mitzvah that would be suspended by the words of a person, it is not a mitzvah that can trigger the rule of asei docheh lo ta’aseh—a positive commandment in the Torah supersedes a negative commandment. Honoring a father should be the same.

Rosh suggested a distinction. A victim who states, “I do not want to marry the man who forced himself on me,” forever suspends the mitzvah of lo tihyeh l’isha. An obligation that can be annulled forever by the words of a person is weak and cannot overrule a prohibition. However, if a father waived his rights to honor from his children, if they chose to honor him they would still fulfill a mitzvah. His waiver did not really negate the mitzvah. This is why honoring one’s father is a strong obligation. It would have overruled a prohibition, had there not been the verse of “Ish imo v’aviv tira’u ve’et Shabtotai tishmoru—Every man should fear his mother and his father, and you shall observe My Shabbatot.”

Radbaz (Chelek Alef, Siman 524) disagreed with the Rosh. He argued that a father could permanently waive his rights to honor. If so, the mitzvah of honoring a parent should be like the mitzvah of lo tihyeh l’isha. Both can be forever suspended with the words of a person.

Divrei Yechezkel answered for the Rosh. He argued that even a father who said that he permanently waived the honor due to him had merely suspended the obligations. He could still retract his waiver. He could change his mind and the children would then have to honor him.

It emerges that according to Radbaz, in our case the son would not need to say Kaddish. Saying Kaddish is a form of honoring the father. The father had signed a document renouncing any rights he had. That waiver caused a permanent negation of the obligation to honor his father. However, according to Divrei Yechezkel, the father could always change his mind. Presumably in our case, the father repented and changed his mind before passing away. Therefore, according to Divrei Yechezkel, the child should say Kaddish for his deceased father even though Dad had deserted and neglected him.

In regards to mourning, Rav Zilberstein felt that shiva and shloshim (30 days of no haircuts) for a parent were not only based of honoring parents. They were obligations imposed regardless of the wishes of the parents. Therefore, the son would be obligated to sit shiva and to observe the laws of shloshim. However, the added mourning of 12 months is unique to father and mother. Therefore, perhaps the son did not need to mourn for 12 months. Others might argue that only when the father explicitly asks the child not to mourn for 12 months would the child be exempt from those laws, but not when the father merely surrendered his rights to honor during his lifetime. Perhaps, therefore, the son should mourn for the full 12 months (Chashukei Chemed).

 

Bava Metzia 33: A mother wished to abort her child, must the child honor her?

A woman wanted to abort her pregnancy. The doctor demanded a lot of money. At the last minute, due to her lack of funds, she did not terminate the fetus. A boy was born. Was that boy obligated to honor her? When she passed away, was he obligated to recite Kaddish for her?

The Midrash (Bereishit Rabba 39:7) states: “Hashem told our father Abraham, I exempt you from honoring father and I do not exempt others.” Why did Hashem exempt our patriarch from honoring his father, Terach?

Zecher Shlomo gives a novel answer. There are three partners in the creation of man. Hashem, his father and his mother. Terach handed Avraham over to Nimrod who threw him into a furnace. Terach had willfully risked his son’s life. As a result, he was no longer entitled to honor due him for having had a role in the creation of Avraham. When he performed actions that almost killed Avraham he lost his right to honor.

Chida (Devash Lefi Ma’arachah alef ot 39) also suggests this principle. “I heard from Mahari Segal that in the book “Bigdei Aharon” it is written that Abraham did not need to honor his father, Terach, for there are three partners in a person—God, father and mother—and Terach lost his portion when he handed Avraham to Nimrod.” Chida also explained that King Hezekiah dragged the remains of his father, King Achaz, for his father lost his portion in Hezekiah when he handed him over to the Molech (an idolatry in which sons were killed by fires). In light of these sources, the son, in our case, should be exempt from honoring his mother. She was like Achaz and Terach. She tried to kill him and therefore was no longer entitled to honor as a partner in his creation.

By Rabbi Zev Reichman

 

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